The Supreme Court has observed that a High Court is empowered to pass appropriate orders including the surrender of passport In order to ensure the presence of the parties in the contempt proceedings.
A civil suit was filed before the High Court seeking declaration, permanent injunction and possession of the suit property. The Single Judge granted interim injunction restraining the defendants from selling, alienating or creating any third party rights in the suit property. Alleging disobedience of the injunction order by the defendants, the plaintiff filed an application under Order XXXIX Rule 2A CPC read with Sections 10 and 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act for breach of injunction order. Observing that the defendant has failed to comply with his undertakings/statements, the Single Judge directed the defendant to deposit his passport and made an order restraining him from leaving India. This order was later set aside by the division bench.
In appeal, the Apex Court bench comprising of Justices R. Banumathi and AS Bopanna observed that the Division Bench proceeded as if the Single Judge ordered impounding of the passport, whereas, the Single Judge has only directed the defendant to deposit his passport in the Court. Setting aside the Division bench order, the bench said:
Since repeated undertakings were filed and the same were not complied with, learned Single Judge directed respondent No.1 to surrender his passport. The said order was passed to ensure the presence of the first respondent and compliance of the order of the Court. It cannot be said that the learned Single Judge exceeded the jurisdiction or committed an error in ordering surrender of the passport. In order to ensure the presence of the parties in the contempt proceedings, the Court is empowered to pass appropriate orders including the surrender of passport. While dealing with child custody matter, in David Jude vs. Hannah Grace Jude and Another (2003) 10 SCC 767, the Supreme Court directed Union of India to cancel the passport of contemnor No.1 and to take necessary steps to secure the presence of contemnor No.1 with the child in India and to ensure her appearance before the Court on the date of hearing.
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